Climate change protesters disrupt Ron DeSantis event

Florida Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis at campaign event in Ames on Jan. 11. Photo by Nikoel Hytrek/Starting Line staff

By Nikoel Hytrek

January 11, 2024

Climate protesters disrupted a Gov. Ron DeSantis campaign event in Ames on Thursday night.

Three protesters were escorted out of the room at Jethro’s BBQ after asking the presidential candidate about the money he takes from the oil industry. Paul, one of the protestors, confirmed to Starting Line that all three are members of the Sunrise Movement, a political organization that tries to make politicians address the climate crisis.

Paul, who did not give his last name, pointed to the drought Iowa farmers have faced for more than three years as one example of the harms caused by climate change that make it crucial to address.

“Shortly after he had been joking about the hurricanes Floridians have been facing, I asked him what’s his plan to stop the climate crisis,” Paul said. “I was disappointed in his lack of an answer, and the reality is that he doesn’t have a plan.”

Instead, Paul said DeSantis wants to expand and prolong the use of fossil fuels, which will doom younger generations.

The 2023 hurricane season was the fourth-most active on record with 20 named storms. Scientists have also said 2023 was the hottest year on record by a wider margin than previous years. Earlier this week, Florida was hit by an EF-3 tornado while Iowans sat through a snowstorm.

DeSantis has pledged to dismantle the actions President Joe Biden has taken to address climate change. Biden’s actions include incentivizing electric vehicles by making them cheaper, passing efforts to make renewable energy cheaper, and rejoining the Paris Climate agreement among other things.

Paul said he interrupted DeSantis’s opening remarks because candidates don’t always answer questions at events and he thinks the issue is too important and hasn’t been addressed enough.

DeSantis told Paul to stop interrupting and being rude while security dragged him out of the room.

After Paul was removed, he said, “This guy wants you to pay more for gas, more for energy. He wants rolling blackouts in this country. We’re not going to let people like that win.”


Paul was just the first one though. Shiva Rajbhandari approached the stage and was tackled before being removed from the room, but he asked the same questions.


“I’m afraid for my future,” he said after the event. “Folks like Ron DeSantis are selling our country down the line for oil and gas companies and for temporary profits.”

Rajbhandari said he interrupted because he didn’t think the question would be answered otherwise.

“This is wrong with the college system right there,” DeSantis said, after Rajbhandari was removed. “That’s exhibit A.” He then pivoted back to his stump speech.

Paul and Rajbhandari said Americans deserve a leader who answers hard questions and looks to the future.

“We cannot go through another Republican administration that denies the reality of the climate crisis to prioritize fossil fuels and lie to the American public about the reliability of affordable energy,” Rajbhandari said.

Paul said he wanted a leader who would confront the climate crisis and invest in solutions that would create jobs.

“Iowa has over 62% wind and solar electricity and that should be going all across the country instead of going back toward more oil, gas, coal, which pollutes the air and destroys our future,” he said.

  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].



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